Grand Prix of Kansas Notebook

Sean Rayhall stood in front of television cameras after his last outing in a Prototype Challenge race, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month, smiling and talking about positive things. But underneath the smile were teeth biting a tongue.

Yes Rayhall led the race, yes he had a fast car under him and yes a victory was in sight for the 18-year-old driver for 8Star Motorsports in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship class.

But an aggressive move on a slower GT Daytona car when he was gaining on the race leader resulted in a heartbreaking incident that decimated all that Rayhall and his team had accomplished to that point in the race.

And man, he said Friday before practice at Kansas Speedway for Saturday night’s Grand Prix of Kansas, mustering up that smile for the cameras was tough.

"It was definitely rewarding [to run well at Mazda Raceway], it was definitely devastating." Rayhall said. “It was good on one end, bad on the other. But at the end of the day, we should have won that race."

That was all a month ago. The two-segment event at Kansas’s 2.37-mile, six-turn circuit will mark the first time the PC class has taken to a track since.

Must be good to get a chance to wash the Mazda Raceway sand out of his mouth, it was suggested to Rayhall, a native Georgian.

Well, only kind of, he said.

Because of the format for the Kansas event, a format which dictates that the “amateur" member of a team’s driving tandem must drive in the non points-paying first segment, Rayhall will not get a chance to be behind the wheel during the go-time second segment.

Bummer, he said.

The PC cars race six more times this season so there will be more chances for Rayhall to get that first victory in the series.

Not that merely getting a victory is goal No. 1 for him and his 8Star team.

"We're finally getting the point where we are improving the car," he said. “If we can keep having good cars the only thing that can stop us is bad luck. We are already where we want to be. We’ve got fast cars, we’ve got fast drivers. Our qualifying effort is there. We are here for the team championship."

Veteran road racer Ryan Dalziel is spending a weekend off from driving a Prototype P2 car in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship Series by – what else? – driving in a sports car race.

This weekend, Dalziel returns to the Peter Baron-owned Starworks Motorsport team with whom he had so much success in the Rolex Series in the recent past. He will co-drive the No. 7 Starworks Prototype Challenge car with Martin Fuentes in Saturday night’s Grand Prix of Kansas.

Dalziel, who drives the No. 1 Tequila Patr¢n HPD ARX-03b for Extreme Speed Motorsports in the TUDOR Championship’s Prototype class on a full-time basis, will be filling the PC seat of Sam Bird, who is in France preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

And a happy guy Dalziel is to be in Kansas with Starworks in a PC car.

Dalziel is also glad to be back at Kansas Speedway. A year ago, he co-drove with Alex Popow for Starworks in the DP portion of the Rolex Series race in the infield oval here. He loved it even though he and Popow finished 11th.

"It's nice to be here and definitely nice to be re-united with Starworks," he said.

It was with Starworks in 2012 that Dalziel had a season for the books.

Driving the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Daytona Prototype, he won the pole for the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona; finished Daytona as runner-up, just five seconds behind the race winners, after leading the most laps with teammates Popow, Enzo Potolicchio, Allan McNish and Lucas Luhr; finished runner up in the overall driver standings, with one victory and six podiums; won the FIA World Endurance Championship in the Starworks HPD LMP2 car; won the 24 hours of Le Mans and 12 hours of Sebring.

"It’s a great place to work," Dalziel said of Starworks. "And Peter’s a great boss. It’s a great place to be around. But, I’ve always said that from the outside it can look like we’re having too much fun, but on the inside there’s a lot of hard work going on. Extremely good people here."

Sixteen-year-olds are not rare sights at the Circuit de la Sarthe on weekends of the Le Mans 24-hour race. France being filled with Frenchmen, being 16 and at Le Mans is a rite of passage.

But 16-year-olds actually being in the race? That has been a rarity. In fact, it’s never happened. Until now.

Next week, that will all change when 16-year-old Arizona native Matt McMurry will drive in the world’s premier sports car endurance race.

"It’s definitely here," McMurry, who is driving a Prototype Lites car in Saturday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Kansas Speedway, said of becoming the youngest driver ever to start Le Mans. “I’ve been working for this since seventh grade."

Which was only three years ago. Still, he said, pretty exciting.

After Kansas, he will board an airplane later in the weekend and head to France as he must be at the track on Monday for scrutineering.

At Le Mans, McMurry will co-drive the Greaves Motorsport’s No. 41 Zytek ZS11 Nissan in the LMP2 class, alongside Dyson Racing sporting director Chris Dyson and Greaves veteran Tom Kimber-Smith.

But first is Kansas and two 45-minute sprint races in Lites. McMurry will be driving the No. 16 Performance Tech Motorsports car. It will mark his third and fourth races in the series this year as he raced in both events at Sebring in March. There he finished 23rd and fifth.

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